Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited hemoglobin disorders. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. An individual diagnosed with sickle cell disease two abnormal hemoglobin genes. The abnormal S or sickle hemoglobin will be present.
The abnormal sickle hemoglobin cells form an abnormal crescent moon shape or shape of a farming tool called sickle. The sickle cells are hard and firm, instead of round and flexible. These abnormal blood cells clog blood vessels, causing episodes of severe pain, organ damage, and other serious health problems. Normal red blood cell live about 120 days. Sickle cells live about 10-15 days which results in anemia.
Sickle cell trait is the condition in which a person has inherited a gene for hemoglobin A from one parent and a gene for hemoglobin S from the other parent. This is not a disease. People with sickle cell trait tend to be healthy and lead normal lives, but there people that experience pain crisis complications.
Persons with sickle cell trait have been shown to be more vulnerable than those without trait to heat stroke and muscle breakdown when subjected to strenuous forced exercise in military training under unfavorable environmental conditions. Follow up studies demonstrated that the incidence of this problem can be reduced in all recruits by avoiding dehydration and overheating during training. Therefore it is important to know the sickle cell trait status to be aware of the status and take precautions to avoid complications and possible death.
No. People who are not African American can have sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. It also affects people whose ancestors come from Mexico; Central America; South America; India; Saudi Arabia; Africa; and Mediterranean areas such as Italy, Greece, and Turkey.
No. Sickle cell trait is not a disease. Individuals with sickle cell trait will never develop the disease. People with sickle cell trait will never outgrow the trait.
Can a person catch sickle cell disease from someone who has it?
No. The disease is inherited and is not contagious. To inherit the disease, a child must receive two sickle cell genes – one from each parent who carries a sickle cell gene.
Is there a cure for sickle cell disease?
There is no universal cure for sickle cell disease, but bone marrow transplants have been successful to cure sickle cell in many patients. A bone marrow transplant has risks and it is not suitable or offered many patients.
Can women with sickle cell disease have children?
Yes. Women with sickle cell disease can have normal pregnancies. However, affected women are at an increased risk of complications that can affect their health and that of their babies. During pregnancy, the disease may become more severe and painful crises may occur more frequently. A pregnant woman with sickle cell disease is at an increased risk of miscarriage and of having a low-birthweight baby. However, with early prenatal care and careful monitoring throughout pregnancy, the outlook for a healthy pregnancy has improved.
How can I get tested for sickle cell?
Your physician or healthcare facility can arrange for you to have a simple painless blood test called the hemoglobin electrophoresis. This blood test can identify people who have either sickle cell trait or the disease, as well as a number of other inherited blood abnormalities.